A MindFul of Happy Memories
While the title calling it “happy memories” may be overstating things, i09 had an article yesterday discussing a study published in Nature where scientists were able to create a positive association with a place by stimulating two parts of the mouse’s brain while it slept. They started feeling positively about a certain location, even though that location had never contained a reward. In other words, they acted as if they frequently got treats when they went to that location, even though they had never gotten treats there; only zaps to the brain.
It’s like the inverse of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It’s planting happy, fake memories instead of erasing painful, real memories.
If at some point in the future, happy memories were being doled out — you know, as a pick-me-up to get you through your day — would you take them? Happy memories of vacations never taken or wonderful relationships that never existed or adoration and accolades that never really came at work?
Would you want them for someone else? If, let’s say, you had an elderly relative, always depressed that no one came to visit because they lived too far away for visits to be feasible, would you want to plant happy memories of recent visits in her brain so she could smile through her remaining time on earth rather than experiencing grief from loneliness?
Maybe this article just hit me while in a certain mood, but suddenly having happy associations sounded pretty damn good. If they were real associations, that would obviously be great, but if they were false, well, I wouldn’t know that they weren’t real, would I? I would just get to enjoy the warm buzz from the thoughts. Which, I know, doesn’t sound like me. Usually I’m not one to embrace ersatz anything. But… I don’t know.
I’d like different thoughts tied to a peestick. I’d like to have warm, happy feelings when I think about family building.
Because really, how are planted, false memories any different from the false beliefs we encounter naturally in life? How is it any different from the happy memories you may have of a relationship before you discovered the person was cheating on you or the happy memories of a friendship before it went south? The beliefs that feel real and happy in the moment that upon reflection we realize were built on something false that we didn’t know about at the time. Is it really so far off from that?
Maybe it is.